Does UAB make sense for the Sun Belt?

With the decision to drop football, UAB will be forced to leave Conference USA at the end of this athletic year unless the other members grant them a reprieve. Indications are that CUSA will not make a decision until June.

Among the places listed as a potential landing spot if they are not granted a waiver or CUSA does not amend its bylaws is the Sun Belt. The question is, would the Sun Belt invite the Blazers and does an invite make sense for the league.

The arguments for UAB being invited are pretty easy to figure out.

UAB is historically a strong basketball program and have normally played pretty decent baseball, their women’s soccer has been good and men’s soccer (a sport the Sun Belt began offering again this year) has been very successful.

Their strongest benefit is geography. UAB fits snugly into an eastern division of the Sun Belt without shifting the geographic center of the league very far east.

Sun Belt full members "M" indicates mid-point

Sun Belt with UAB added

UAB was a member of the “old” Sun Belt and 8 of their fourteen NCAA appearances came as a member of the Sun Belt. Their only Elite Eight and two of their Sweet Sixteen appearances came in the Sun Belt as well. The Blazers have good name recognition and could help the Sun Belt brand, However, UAB is not a slam dunk to get the required nine votes for admission.

The league has 11 full voting members and nine play FBS football. Adding UAB tilts the table to three non-football and nine football. There has been a desire to add more football members even though an agreeable school has not come forward yet.

After the negative publicity, there will likely be some concern regarding whether UAB will fund its remaining sports at a competitive level. Despite great brand recognition in basketball, the program has not been as strong of late. The Blazers currently have an RPI of 181. Last year 152 and in 2012-13 143, the year before 106. The last time UAB was in the top 100 was 2010-11 when they were rated 35.

UAB baseball was rated 77 in 2014, 10 spots behind AState. In 2012 and 2013 they were rated outside the top 100.

The hope of some UAB supporters to bring football back, might end up being a negative. The Sun Belt already has two Alabama based football members. A third member in Olympic sports is not much of a problem but three in football would look to be overkill. If football is restored they will have to start again nearly from scratch and need to build trust from recruits to be an effective football program.

The Blazers could be a valuable addition to the Sun Belt, if they are willing to commit to playing top level basketball. The question is whether the membership believes the positives at UAB out-weigh the negatives.